Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer = jam

I made jam today. Yup, real hot-water-bath, steam-up-the-kitchen, old-school strawberry jam. Okay, I know it's not Paris-Brest cake or some unpronounceable European concoction, but hey--it's big stuff for me. I'd been thinking about making jam or canning something for a while now. I think what put me over the edge was an article I re-read endlessly by Molly Wizenberg (you know, "Orangette") that traced her journey to jam-hood. I'd bookmarked it and put it on my counter; every so often, when I'd be standing at the stove waiting for something to simmer, I'd take it out and read it yet again. She made it sound so easy that I figured I could handle it.

Now, I'm a heavy-duty home cook: I can whoop up a pie crust without stressing; I've made different types of cheese in my kitchen; hell, if a fire started to consume my house, I'd probably grab my 25-year-old carbon-steel wok first and then go back to save my kids. So yesterday I finally put down all the obsessive research I'd been amassing, got The Girl to help me pick strawberries at the pick-your-own farm the next street over from my house (some rain, but we--OK, I--kept picking), and waded into Wal-Mart (!) for jars and pectin. Yes, I used pectin. Don't make that face. I'm not about to risk all this work for a non-jelling jelly...

I won't detail the whole process (wanna borrow all my notes?!), but probably the two jobs that took the longest were 1) preparing the berries and 2) waiting for the giant canning pot of water to boil. The rest was fairly easy. And by about 10:30 this morning, I had 8 jars of strawberry jam sitting on my dining-room table, starting their 24-hour "don't touch or I won't jell" countdown.

Now I can't wait for blueberry season. I'm totally making some blueberry jam. And in the fall I'm going to try a version of some French apple/pear/walnut conserve that my kids love but that costs six bucks at Whole Foods.

Can I confess something about me and hobbies? I tried my hand at furniture refinishing. I didn't really see the point. Gardening made me want to jam a tomato stake in my eye. My dear departed mother-in-law, who tried to teach me to needlepoint, found me so uncoordinated that she asked me if my brain was "all there." But this jam thing--now that's a hobby I can really get behind.


  1. Oh fun! I chickened out last year and made refrigerator jam (you know, the kind you don't can but will stay good for a week or two in the fridge). I didn't use pectin, but I still managed to WAY over gel it. It turned into basically strawberry rollup stuck in a jar. Delicious, but completely useless for sandwiches. I ended up reheating it and scooping it over ice cream. Good, but kind of put me off trying to make jam for another year!

    Maybe next year I'll try again :)

  2. Jam is good! And hey, if you ever find yourself with an excess supply as a result of your new found hobby you can always send some my way! I don't think I ever had a jar of store bought jam or jelly growing up - my mom made every kind imagineable. I stick with the freezer jam variety, which contains more sugar in a Tablespoon than a person should consume in a week, but it's soooooo yummy (and takes me back to my childhood) :).